An independent cross-border investigation will be carried out into the murder of a man in Co Louth nearly 45 years ago.
Seamus Ludlow (47), a forestry worker, was shot on his way home from a pub in Dundalk, Co Louth on May 2nd, 1976.
His family have campaigned for decades to find the truth of the events surrounding his death. They say he was an innocent victim of a loyalist death squad comprising Red Hand Commando operatives and two members of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) who travelled from the North to commit murder.
Family solicitor Gavin Booth said the investigation will be led by Jon Boutcher, a former police chief in England.
Speaking at the Lisdoo Arms, where Mr Ludlow was last seen alive, Mr Booth also revealed that a witness has come forward with “significant information” in the last two weeks.
“Seamus was a quiet man,” he said. “He was a family man and occasionally visited pubs in Dundalk and was known for his charitable work here.
“He was not political and was not interested in the conflict in the North and worked full time and was a devoted family man.”
Mr Booth said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and An Garda Síochána would cooperate with the investigation.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in 1979 provided gardaí the names of four loyalists it suspected of being involved in Mr Ludlow’s killing but the information was not pursued at the time. This included members of the Red Hand Commando and the British Army’s UDR.
In 1998, four suspects were arrested and questioned by the RUC and two of them allegedly made confessions about their involvement in the murder.
The family also claims gardaí were complicit in spreading false rumours that Mr Ludlow was killed for being an IRA informant, and that documents about the case, two bullets and some of Mr Ludlow’s clothing have been lost by State agencies.
An Oireachtas committee recommended more than a decade ago that two commissions of investigation be held into the murder and subsequent events, after a judge-led report criticised the original botched garda investigation. Neither of the recommendations were followed up.
Mr Booth said it is a police investigation and where evidence becomes available, arrests can be made.
“He (Mr Boutcher) should also have the ability, where evidence exists, to chase that down and prepare files for either prosecution services North and South,” he added.
He also said the new evidence that has emerged in recent weeks is being considered by Mr Boutcher’s team.
“It’s quite large in volume and it’s an independent witness that has come forward and we’re hoping that that will form part of the investigation and play a major part in uncovering what happened.”
Michael Donegan, Mr Ludlow’s nephew, said that after after almost 45 years the family was pleased to “finally have a police team that wants to find the answers that we have been looking for”.
“The story that is in the public domain is not the true story, there is a different one we want to find and allow us to find closure,” he said.
“This is not to put people in jail, I have no sympathy for the killers but they are old men and putting them in jail for two years is not going to bring Seamus back.” – PA